8 ways to increase your visibility on a motorcycle

While the UK has experienced a significant decrease in motorcycle fatalities during the past 10 years, motorcyclists account for around 18% of deaths on the road – even though motorcycle riders only make up 1% of all road users.

This is why safety and visibility are essential for motorcyclists. To help riders stay safe on the roads, here are 10 ways you can ensure that you’re seen.

1. Use reflective tape

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This inexpensive yet effective tape is one of the simplest tools that you can use to increase your visibility on the road. Reflective tape can be applied to the inner edge of your rims, and when the tape is caught in another vehicle’s headlights, the edges of your tyres are effectively illuminated.

You can also apply small pieces around your tail light, rear fender, fairings and saddlebags for extra illumination. Available in a variety of colours, reflective tape is not only a great safety feature, it can be stylish too. If you don’t have reflective or brightly coloured gear, you can also use reflective tape on your helmet and clothes.

2. Adjust your headlamp angle

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Headlamps and bulbs can often change position due to road vibrations, age, and other factors, which is why you should inspect their positioning now and then to ensure they haven’t come loose.

You may also want to angle your headlamp in the optimum position to maximise your view of the road. The more visibility you have, the less likely it will be that something may happen.

3. Wear high visibility gear

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As well as decorating your motorbike with high-vis stuff, there are plenty of things you can do as the rider to ensure you’re seen. High-vis vests for example, naturally make other motorists think ‘caution’ or ‘pay attention’.

So if you opt to wear one of these over your gear, it’s more likely you’ll be seen by other road-users. Lightweight, inexpensive and easy to carry and store, this piece of gear should be an essential for any rider.

If a high-vis vest isn’t enough for you, you could always go the whole hog and get yourself a high-vis jacket and helmet too. High-vis gear can be worn at any time, and even though it can illuminate you much more in the dark, it is still highly reflective during dim, rainy days.

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4. Apply auxiliary lights

Similar to reflective tape, auxiliary lights can be added to your bike to illuminate the bike itself, and to make visibility better for both you and other road-users. Auxiliary lights can be added to almost any part of your bike, but don’t over-do it. You don’t want to end up looking like a Christmas tree.

Auxiliary lights are most commonly placed on the front and back of the bike in a manner dependent on a lot of factors including the bike itself, the rider’s preference, and weather.

For example, in poor weather conditions, having a light mounted above eye level can produce more obstruction through reflections of snow or rain than actual illumination. If you’re riding a chopper with high-up handlebars, place lights on the top of your mudguard rather than on your handlebars for better visibility.

Some auxiliary lights can be set to different intensities or to strobe in the back when braking to better alert other road-users.Plus, LED lights rarely fail and if a bulb was to go out suddenly, at least you’d have a backup set of lights to get you home safely.

5. Avoid blind spots

This may sound like an obvious one, but riding for too long in a driver’s blind spot seriously increases your chances of not being seen. Lingering behind the b-pillar of a Renault Espace is the last thing you want to do, and if you’re in a position where the driver is unable to see you without having to turn his or her head, then you’re in the wrong position.

Of course, it’s almost impossible to avoid blind spots completely, but you can minimise the time you spend in them. Make your passes confidently, safely and swiftly to then merge into a lane position where you can be seen by all road-users.

Rather than positioning yourself to the side of a lane, it’s also best to ride more towards the middle of the road. This way, you are immediately more visible and it is less likely that another road-user will try to overtake you at close range.

6. Use your horn

Another way to make road users aware of your presence is by using your horn. While beeping your horn at another driver can often be perceived as ‘rude’, using your horn in the right way at the right time can be an effective way to draw the attention of other road-users – similar to how cyclists use their bells to alert pedestrians of their presence.

For example, if a driver looks like they’re about to pull out into traffic and you think they haven’t seen you, a quick double tap on the horn can easily alert them of your presence. The same can be said for when you’re sitting behind a large vehicle like a transit van or lorry – a swift tap on the horn can alert them of your presence.

7. Tap your brakes

Tapping your brakes, especially at night can be a great way to communicate to the driver behind you that they need to pay attention. In the dark, or in foggy weather, when visibility is poor, tapping your brakes quickly can better alert the driver of your presence and can give them a better idea of the distance between themselves and you.

Brake tapping can also be an effective method to warn tailgaters to back off, and to warn other road-users of dangerous road conditions or obstructions up ahead.

8. Use your high beams

While this may sound like an odd tip, using your high beams in the daytime can make you much more visible to other road-users. This is not to say that you should ride with your high-beams constantly on at night – you don’t want to dazzle other road-users – but having them on in the day can be a great way to be seen. If your bike already has high-powered lights it may be overkill, but for many older models and custom builds, high beams in daytime ensure that car drivers keep their attention on you.

Having a ‘road-worthy’ bike doesn’t just mean making sure it’s adequately MOTd and insured. There are also extra precautions you can take to ensure you and your bike are easily visible and safe on the roads – from equipping high-vis gear to adjusting your riding techniques.

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